Internet “Gatekeepers”: A History of Exaggerations

9/19/11 | 11:18:00 AM

Some critics and competitors call Google a “gatekeeper” to the internet. But Google is not the first -- and won’t be the last -- tech company to be branded with this title. Where are these fomer supposed “gatekeepers” today?

The PlayersThe ConcernsThe Outcome
AOL and Netscape merger, 1999“If it goes through, the software nearly everyone uses to surf the Web will be owned either by Microsoft or AOL. These are the wrong companies to wield so much influence on the future architecture of the Internet... they would be the gatekeepers for commerce, and they would have the public pay to communicate with each other, or even to debate each other or socialize.” As of March 2008, Netscape Navigator no longer exists.
AOL and
Time Warner
merger, 2000
“[Critics] see it as a merger of two of the country's largest information gatekeepers. The combined company would have a huge distribution network -- AOL's Internet business and Time Warner's cable network -- plus a stable of content that includes top-line magazines, movie studios, book publishers and TV networks.”

“AOL Time Warner will be like an air-traffic controller, deciding who gets landing rights and who gets gates.... They can make sure that their services and content get preferential treatment.”
The merger was unwound in 2009 after record losses. “To call the transaction the worst in history... does not begin to tell the story.” (New York Times)
MySpace, 2005“MySpace has 41 million registered users and ranks 19th on the list of most-visited Internet sites... Its 24 million unique visitors in October exceeded the combined traffic on Facebook (9 million), Xanga (8 million) and Friendster (1.4 million). That makes MySpace the prime gateway to marketing's dream demographic: 14- to 30-year-olds.” In May 2011, MySpace had 35 million unique monthly visitors; Facebook had 157 million. MySpace was sold in June 2011.